The other day I had a great discussion on Twitter with George Dinwiddie on goals conflicting with each other on different levels. It all started with goals changing over time, went through divergent goals between a project team and stakeholders and ended up with clash between short- and long-term goals. Well, actually it ended up when George very wisely prompted me to set the context first and then go back to a discussion.
The subject is rather broad so here is the story to set the focus. There’s Jimmy the Manager who lead a functional team of 7 developers. I chose 7 as it is a sort of magic number in terms of team size. Anyway Jimmy has in his team Jenny the Slacker. Jenny is a generally liked person and they get on very well with Jimmy. Actually they built quite a friendship. Jenny also gets on well with pretty much anyone. The problem is Jenny underperforms. Jimmy the Manager tried everything he could think of to sort the problem out but it seems Jenny is not only the Slacker but also the Impregnable. Nothing changes.
Now, let’s focus on Jimmy’s goals for a moment. On one hand he is a manager and is responsible for making the team perform well. On the other he likes Jenny and also knows how misunderstood any harsh decision against her would be, as she’s kind of liked by everyone.
If Jimmy chooses to wear his manager hat and do the worst managerial task he’ll accomplish goals set by his superiors: eventually team performance will improve. At the same time he will probably ruin the relationship they have and also receive plenty of flak from colleagues wondering how the heck such a nice person as Jenny was fired. It is likely that even his own team won’t fully understand the decision.
Jimmy can also play a nice guy role. It means sacrificing team performance, and one of his goals, but also avoiding very difficult decision and its unpleasant consequences. It means preserving many of other workplace relationships as well. For any manager, and a normal person, these should be important goals too.
Now, to avoid leaving the subject without any call for action, a few questions. What would you do if you were Jimmy the Manager? Why? Which goals you consider more important? What exactly makes you following one path and not the other?
Note: I do consider that all “let’s fix the situation and achieve both sets of goals” options have been executed and it hasn’t worked. You are on the crossroads – you have to choose.